The Pressures of Career
During my early years of marriage, I was obsessively driven to succeed in my career. And ironically what helped keep Sue and me together was her response to my nearly all-consuming work-related efforts; she was not only tolerant, but she was supportive of my work habits and time away from the family.
I knew I was neglecting my family as a father and as a husband. Because of the heavy work demands, I typically slept only four or five hours a night for almost thirty years—certainly not a healthy habit.
In an attempt to manage my time more effectively, and create family experiences and personal interactions with Sue and the kids, I adopted a few coping techniques that helped. I took annual one-on-one trips with each of the five kids, we would take at least one full family vacation every year, and I practiced liberal use of email correspondence and daily prayer.
Involvement in the church helped as well. Early in our marriage, Sue and I began to regularly attend church, Sunday school classes, and church-related events. We also served the Lord in leadership roles within the church community. Sue taught Sunday school and church-sponsored day care while I served as a deacon or trustee in many of the churches we attended. These practices added a welcomed faith-related dimension to our lives that most certainly enabled us to better cope with the otherwise hectic pace. But in a strange way it also added to our stress by consuming even more of the precious limited number of hours available each day.
My various coping techniques provided some relief from stress, but there is one profoundly dramatic factor that has had the greatest impact on our relationship—a factor that came by way of Sue’s grandmother. Sue’s paternal grandmother, Grace Smolar, was a woman I loved deeply and respected greatly for her expressions of faith to her family members. She prayed before every meal and taught Sue to say bedtime prayers every night. And it was this practice that contributed to the strength of our marriage, especially one night during one of our most tumultuous early years.
Struggles in the Early Years of Marriage
I was a young executive attempting to climb the corporate ladder, but despite working very long hours and devoting myself entirely to my career, I was losing favor with an extremely demanding boss who wasn’t satisfied with anything less than superhuman results. I worried about losing my job. At the same time, my father had been diagnosed with cancer and I had little time to devote to him or to my young family. The stress was affecting me physically. I’d dropped from my normal 200 pounds to 170 and my typically healthy, smiling face reflected sadness and sleep deprivation. I was dead tired but so stressed over my future, our finances, my seeming inability to “get it all done,” that my body simply would not relax. Much as I longed for sleep, it would not come. But after what seemed like hours, finally exhaustion overcame me, and just as I felt myself about to drift off, I heard Sue:
“Dear God, please be with Fred and give him the strength and courage to deal with the difficult situation at work, help him to reconcile his differences and misunderstandings with his boss,” she whispered in that lovely, soft, voice. “God, please relieve Fred’s stress so that he may regain his strength and his health while he also frees up time to spend with his ailing father and his children. They miss him and need him, Lord.” Sue was saying her nightly prayers She probably thought I was finally out and couldn’t hear her words—but I did hear them, and so did God. Tears welled up in my eyes and a lump filled my throat as I tried to avoid audibly sobbing—interrupting her prayers and revealing that I was listening to her intimate conversation.
How many times over the years this happened. And how precious these moments are to me. This is what got us through the rough spots: knowing that I was not alone; that my spouse was a strong believer; and that she was not simply relying on me to see us through the challenges of young married life. Today I am convinced that God indeed listened to and answered Sue’s—and my—prayers. I thank God daily for faithful grandmothers, mothers, and spouses. They are some of the principal people who have made such an important contribution to my faith, my spiritual development, and my happiness. And their influence, passed on to my wife, has been a key factor in the strength of our marriage.
God has spoken to me through the voice of my wife, Sue, on many occasions. She has been an incredibly supportive wife of a certifiable workaholic while she very ably ran the household and raised five children. Witnessing and hearing her bedtime prayers touched me greatly and led me to a far deeper relationship with God. While she was speaking intently and sincerely to God, He was speaking to me through her.
Think back on how you have come to your own Christian faith. My guess is there have been pillars of faith in your background who set an example for you and whose abiding faith was an inspiration in your own spiritual development. Try to recall who they were, what they did or said to influence you, and how you might uplift others.
As indicated in James 5, Sue’s prayers offered in abiding faith helped to cure my “sickness” and relieve my stress. By confessing your sins, praying for each other and revealing your faith, you can become a blessing to others, not only in your immediate household but also among all of your friends and acquaintances. Let your faith be known to your family first but also to those in your circle of friends and colleagues and pray for one another. God will not only richly reward you for doing so but will impact others through you as He impacted me through Sue.
Comments from the Original Post
Miyoko Ishibashi 8.3.16
Confessing our short comings sins
Confessing that we are constantly being attacked by satan, this is why we must keep rebuking him.
I suffered many years of insomnia
4 yrs ago we fasted the television
And God healed me, i used to wake up
In frantic thing a sunamiw or earthquakes
Would happen in the middle of the nite.
Now I sleep like a baby, It truly brought our whole family closer to God by not watching Television. We do bible study, prayer changes evertthing. God is awesome with guideance and obedience.
With my mouth
That Jesus Saves and Heals us
Tom Tatum 9.15.13
Fred, that’s a wonderful true life experience. Thanks for sharing the message. The workaholic syndrome affects many folks, me included. However, many are never aware of the impact the condition has on those who love them. The drive to succeed in a competitive world can sometimes cause priorities to be focused on the wrong things … causing the little things in life to go unnoticed. The reality of the situation is lost in the heat of the battle to succeed, and many folks do not ‘see the light’ until it is too late.
There is nothing wrong with working hard, but it is wonderful to have friends and relatives who pray for the workaholics of the world to change their priorities … creating a balanced life.
I wrote a Christian fiction book, “If Tigers Were Angels” that involves a workaholic ‘seeing the light’ when he was in his fifties. God reveals Himself to the old gentleman in a strange way, but the revelation starts a spiritual journey for him that he never dreamed possible.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience. God Bless you!
Diane Hohmann 7.16.13
Oh, Fred. I bet this resonated with plenty of spouses of workaholics! What a beautiful story. I hope there continues to be those faith-filled people that unknowingly influence others is such amazing ways!
I certainly can relate to this as, for the large part, I had a similar situation. Unfortunately, my spouse wasn’t as understanding, other things happened and we divorced. I regret that day and wish that I would’ve been as close to Jesus as i am now. I was a believer then but did not fully commit my heart to him. Things could’ve been much different had I done so.
All aspiring young executives and ladder climbers should very carefully assess their relationships – first with God and Jesus, then with one’s spouse, then with one’s children and other family and finally with one’s boss. If they don’t jibe, something needs to be done.
Diane Walrman 7.8.13
What a lovely story, Fred. Last night we received a phone call that my husband’s Dad just had a heart attack, this would be his second. Prior to this news, periodically over the last couple months I would ask my husband if we could go to Bend, Oregon to visit his Dad. I believe God was working in me to let me know Rick needed to see his Dad. Rick’s mother passed away eleven years ago. I prayed over his Dad, asking God to please give him more time and it looks like my prayers were answered. “The Power of Prayer. That gives me chills how Sue prayed over you. We have an awesome God that answers so many prayers. Tell Sue she has an awesome husband that gave up so much to have your beautiful family. And at the end of the day it is so worth it. God Bless Your Family, Diane